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What is Android Auto?

We take a look at Google’s Android Auto infotainment system and how it offers smartphone connectivity in our cars

android auto on a car screen showing google maps, music and messages

Android Auto is Google’s smartphone mirroring set-up, which allows you to link your phone to your car and use some of your phone’s features on the car’s infotainment screen.

You can enjoy features like audio apps and messaging, and can even make and take calls.

Car manufacturers have always struggled to keep on top of car infotainment, as it’s difficult to match the rapid progress that’s made with our phones.

While smartphone manufacturers are constantly updating their software, car manufacturers can even find that their infotainment tech is out of date by the time the car launches.

To combat this issue, using an infotainment set-up like Android Auto allows you to mirror your smartphone's features in the car infotainment screen, using it as an extension to what’s already in your phone.

You’ll be able to access apps and functions that will make your driving experience easier, and they’ll all be up to date.

This can include features like sending and receiving messages and calls, sat-nav, maps, and music.

You can use the “hey Google” voice control prompt to use these functions hands-free, to allow you to keep your full focus on the road.

Not all cars are compatible with Android Auto or have the system readily built in, so be sure to check if it suits your model.

You can also buy head units to install in the car, or retrofit the system to customise an infotainment system you already have.

Of course, even using your car's infotainment system hands-free can be distracting.

It’s best to set up any apps or functions before you start driving, or pull over safely if you need to use the system.

How to use Android Auto

If you have Android Auto in your car, it’s easy to set it up. You’ll just need to park in your car somewhere safe, turn it on, and follow these steps:

USB Android Auto set-up

  1. Use a USB cable to plug your phone into the vehicle’s USB port.

  2. You might be prompted to download the Android Auto app, or update to the latest version.

  3. Follow the instructions on your phone to complete the set-up.

Wireless Android Auto set-up

You can use Android Auto wirelessly, but you’ll still need to use a USB cable for the initial set-up.

  1. Follow the steps for Android Auto USB set-up to initially connect your phone

  2. Disconnect your phone from the vehicle.

  3. Next time you get in the car with your phone, Android Auto Wireless will automatically connect.

Android Auto features

The Android Auto system is much like Apple CarPlay with the features it offers, providing loads of extra functions to make your driving more streamlined.

The map and navigation features will be particularly useful, as you can find routes, spot places to visit on the way, locate parking, and get real-time alerts.

You’ll also be able to locate charging points for electric vehicles, keeping you boosted on the go.

The handy messaging and call functions will help keep your focus on the road.

Google Assistant can read your messages aloud, and you can tell Google what to reply with by speaking to the system.

You’ll also be able to use your favourite audio apps to play through your car, so you can listen to music, podcasts, audio books, and hear the news.

You’ll be able to use the Google Assistant to navigate these features using voice control, so you won’t have to take your eyes off the road.

The biggest benefit of using Android Auto is that you’ll be able to seamlessly switch between your phone and your infotainment system, making it easy to take advantage of the features you’re used to and have already set up on your mobile.

How much does Android Auto cost?

Many cars come with Android Auto installed as standard, especially if you’re buying a used car, but you can also pay extra to add this optional feature when you’re buying a brand-new vehicle.

The cost will depend on the model, so you’ll need to do your research based on the one you’re buying.

As for the use of Android Auto, the app is free to download on your phone from the Google Play store.

Some apps do cost extra, so make sure you check before you start using.

Android Auto relies on data connection to work, so you’ll need to factor in your phone data.

If you’re already on a data heavy plan you should be fine, but you won't be able to use many of the functions on your Android Auto system if you don’t have data at all.

If you’re planning to drive abroad, data costs for your phone might be higher.

Check this with your service provider before you head off to avoid racking up a bill.

Which cars have Android Auto?

Loads of models come already equip with Android Auto, or are compatible to the system if you want to install it later on.

You’ll find Android Auto systems in many popular cars, such as:

You can see if a particular car is fitted with Android Auto by checking the vehicle listings on our site.

Learn more: